I ADMINISTER the Facebook group, Bisaya Orig (or B Orig), that is focused primarily on promoting original materials of Bisaya musicians. It has less than 500 members, but that does not bother me for as long as I am able to provide an outlet for quality creative outputs of artists. While radio used to be the platform for songs to becoming popular, that seems to be no longer true, as there are acts that can gather a good audience without radio airplay.
Among the developments I’ve noticed these past few months are breakthrough of fresh talents, new releases by pioneers of modern Cebu music and concern as to the use of the Bisaya and/or Cebuano language in songs.
Ferdinand Aragon is the golden boy of Cebu music at the moment. Not only did he win the Visayas Music Festival, or Vizma (“Matag Piraso”), he is a finalist in Himig Handog with “Ingat.” He appeared in ASAP Natin To! and performed in Wish 107.5. Then there is Juan Paasa whose “Summoning Eru” has become viral. This band can really rock and their creativity is just out-of-the-box. When you listen at first, you think they are singing in Japanese, then you come to realize it is in Bisaya. 22 Tango Records’ artists are all over town, with quality recordings and presenting well-produced gigs.
But what really got me excited was the release of albums by not-often-acknowledged singer-songwriters who produced original songs when music recording in Cebu was at its infancy. I refer to Manny Lapingcao, Paul Melendez and Pamela Pilapil who were products of the folk music scene. Both Manny and Paul have won the grand prize in the Cebu Pop Music Festival, while Pamela was a finalist. Manny nowadays is more known for his numerous Sto. Niño songs, yet he independently produced in the ‘80s an album containing some of the most meaningful compositions including “Estudyante o Estambay” and “Kalinaw, Damgo na lang ba Ikaw?” His updated versions are technically superior and worth revisiting. Paul who composed “Make Believe” popularized by Marco Sison put out his “Best of” album that includes the samba ditty, “Ikaw Pa Ba,” and the anthem, “Make It Cebu.” Pamela (musician, radio and voice talent, live show host, academic lecturer) who is based in Singapore, with four albums to her name, re-released these recently in most of the digital platforms.
Finally, there is the complaint of music producer Ben Noynay, who is based in Australia, about the bastardization of the Cebuano language by young songwriters (what with the success of “Summoning Eru”). Ben has a point. It is just that the Cebuano language is evolving, with the Gen Z developing new lingo. But still, we should continue supporting those who produce songs that respect and pay tribute to the language of our ancestors. For instance, there is the album, “Mga Awit ni Eugene Tan,” that is simply captivating.